Serene and subtle on the surface, with a deeper undercurrent running through – Rozi Plain’s aptly-titled third record, see’s Rozi joined by a host of alt-folk familiars. ‘Friend’ came together at the beginning of last year, with a little help from Amaury Ranger and Gerard Black (of François & The Atlas Mountains and their own bands Babe and Archipel) and Jamie Whitby-Coles from This Is The Kit. With further contributions being made from This Is The Kit’s, founding frontwoman Katie Stables, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor and Serafina Steer.
Last spring Rozi found herself living on a boat by her lonesome. When picturing this, one might envision a placid scene with a figure sitting, floating listlessly, lost in introspection. The music seems like it might have been informed by this setting due to its graceful, unhurried nature, free compositional flow and its understated, restless rhythmic elements. Even the lyrics pass by with a pastoral charm, “I could taste the mud from the river, I could feel you floating in her”.
However, one soon comes to realise it is not all smooth sailing, as Actually opens with Rozi singing “It will be reported to be a difficult year, a tumultuous year”. Even though she admits this was not directly meant to be a self-prophesy, it still seems to partly hold true:
“That line was actually written about someone else’s difficult and tumultuous year that I had something to do with. But yes, I suppose half the album is sort of a break up album. Maybe half was written before and half was written after, but it all comes under the banner of a certain time in my life. It felt so important to record it at the time we did, it felt very significant to spend such a powerful week with really important people to me. It was a real marker of coming out of a patch of feeling probably the most miserable I’ve ever been in my life.”
The following tracks definitely feel charged by these emotions, but not ruled by them. After the bottom-heavy bob of bass and sweet probing of Actually comes the vintage synth flutters of Best Team, which snowballs from sparse into sublime symphony. Fans of François & The Atlas Mountains and Babe should recognise the fidgety, infectious synth lines of Gerard Black. As Rozi jokes: “(He’s) the envy of all the keyboard players. All keyboards want to be played by him. All catchy riffs invented by him.”
Her close working relationship with her collaborators and their impressive collective talents as a group means the band together on Friend sound superb. The airy, extracted harmonies, elegant melody and killer synth hook of Jogalong and the twitching percussion of lead single Friend City, softly seduce the listener. With the latter exhibiting the ease at which each musician expertly weaves their way around their neighbour. And ‘ease’ is definitely the operative word here. Rozi seemed surprised by how naturally it all came together compared to her two previous releases: “It was so fun and straightforward. I just trusted everything. I trusted myself and I trusted everyone I worked with.”
This certainly seems to show and empower each track, as seen when the band dynamically converge on Tap To The Chest, one of the most moving tracks, which is coincidentally sandwiched between the albums other two wistful, gripping gems.
Rozi’s delivery on Red Dot manages to walk the line between heart wrenching and hopeful, beautifully. Rearrange – this writer’s ‘repeat-press-play’ – appears to perfectly sum up the turmoil and process of growth that went into producing Friend. The poignant lines, “Now your struggling to leave from a place you don’t know how to be in. From a place you couldn’t even see that much in” sound like someone fighting to understand and come to terms with their feelings. Then the orchestrated surge of excitement that is the outro, feels celebratory, as if the person has forgiven, moved on, but not forgotten. Eventually the protagonist is able to enjoy the calmness that revelation brings. With Friend Rozi has found a way to channel that same sense of hope and calm musically, and the results are utterly spellbinding.
Review by: David Weir
Out Now via Lostmap
Order via Amazon
Rozi is on tour now, check her website for full details here: http://roziplain.co.uk/shows/